Standing In the Shadows

mapping buzz but missing the quotidian?

Even though it’s like, ‘What the heck does that mean?,’ it means something.” – Elizabeth Currid

Elizabeth Currid and Sarah Williams map out the “geography of buzz” using media coverage of arts and entertainment events in New York City and Los Angeles to visualize concentrations of “buzz,” that elusive sense of public attention that seems to be such a desire in our culture. Following the work of Richard Florida, they stake a claim for the essential contributions of “creative workers” to the lives of cities economically and culturally.


But their work oddly seems to miss out on the lifeworld of cities, those vernacular spaces of quotidian experience in which something more than buzz — something more substantive, robust, and significant — takes place culturally but not always economically.

Williams speaks of “data shadows,” those traces we leave behind of our urban lives, but it might be worth exploring non-data shadows as well: those areas of everyday experience suffused with aesthetic and political import that lurk beyond the zones lit up by mediated buzz.

These non-data shadows lurk in plain daylight yet are oddly made darker by the glowing dots of buzz. Nonetheless, because they take place in parts of life beyond the momentary flashes of buzzing attention, they may well be more crucial to the civic health of places and peoples.

Image: Maps by Sarah Williams and Minna Ninova, Spatial Information Design Lab, Columbia University

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